People Like Us

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Having just done the tags for this novel, I realise there is *a lot* going on in it! I am a little in two minds about how good I think it is – on the one hand, I did want to keep reading to find out whodunnit, but on the other, I found the characters a little grating and spoiled, and the whole thing a bit crazy and unrealistic. But maybe that’s not always a bad thing? The main character is a bisexual student at a posh boarding school, Kay, who is the queen bee of the super popular, super bitchy click. She’s just broken up with her cheating boyfriend, although it turns out she’s actually in love with her best friend, so he wasn’t the only one being unfaithful.  The girls are sneaking out to their annual freezing swim in the pond after the Halloween dance when they find the body of another student, Jessica, floating in the lake. It quickly becomes clear that Kay is being set up for the murder and she has to race to try and prove her innocence. This is not helped by a guilty conscience relating to the death of her brother and her best friend back in her home town. See, a lot going on! A fun read but not one I think I’ll bother getting for our own library.

The Last to Let Go

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I so wanted to love this book. I adored The Way I Used to Be and I was/am desperate to find a really powerful story addressing domestic violence. Sadly, I don’t think this is it.  The main character, Brooke, plans to start the coming school year at a fancy new high school where she will be pushed academically to achieve all she’s capable of. Unfortunately, on the day of her final exam at her old school, she returns home to find that her mother has killed her father, having finally cracked after years and years of domestic abuse.  There are flashes of brilliance in this story, but overall it just didn’t deliver. I found Brooke selfish and a little shallowly drawn.  Actually, most of the characters lacked the depth needed to pull this off – the girl Brooke falls for at her new school is furious with her for not telling her the whole story, but I couldn’t help thinking it was one situation when perhaps a bit of understanding should be called for… Most frustrating is that Smith doesn’t resolve any of the issues surrounding the younger sister, who saw the dad being killed. She starts to make it interesting by suggesting the sister blames the mum for what happened, but then it goes nowhere, the conversation is never returned to. So on balance, not a very satisfying read. It’s ok. Maybe 3 out of 5?

All The Rage

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A student was asking for more stories about survivors of rape last week and this was on a best book list in the last couple of years; I can see why, it’s an intense and darkly drawn story. At the beginning I was confused by what was happening to who and when, but once I realised I had misread the first two pages, the whole thing clicked – and it was amazing! The story opens with the town outcast, Romy, remembering the night a year earlier when she got totally hammered and was raped by a guy she’d had a crush on; no one believed her because he was the town golden boy (the sheriff’s son) and so she lost all her friends as a result. That first page then flicks to the present (which is how I got confused), where Romy once again finds herself broken and beaten, hungover as hell, on the side of a road.  We then go back two weeks to see what was going on in the lead up to Romy ending up in that state. We also meet the town sweetheart, Penny, who it turns out has gone missing the same night Romy was abandoned on the road side.  The book is a gut wrenching, emotional tale of small town power and politics, and how dangerous these can be for vulnerable young women. Definitely worth a read.

The Girls

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The Girls is described by The New Yorker magazine as, “a song of innocence and experience…Finely intelligent, often superbly written, with flashingly brilliant sentences.” This was enough of a sales pitch for me and I immediately went and picked up a copy from the library. The reviewers weren’t kidding. It’s a dark and brooding novel, one that embodies the slow, sticky feeling of summer in which the story takes place.  It follows a girl called Evie who becomes seduced by a group of free floating girls she sees around her home town. These girls live in a commune led by a character based on Charles Manson. In fact, the whole thing is a fictional take on that murderous cult.  I had limited knowledge of Manson before reading the book, which perhaps was an advantage, and led me to some obsessively googling when I’d finished. It’s definitely a book for young readers looking for a challenge, but those who have read it have found it brilliant.

Monster Love

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Shudder. This book gave me the heebie jeebies, right down to my very soul. Recommended by a student who picked it up off the HHT shelf, I had my reservations about reading it at all; I’m not very good with any story in which children die. It’s so gripping though that I couldn’t stop, even when I wanted to. It’s about a couple who strive to be totally perfect, but have a child they don’t want and ultimately end up killing. I don’t want to give more away than that. It’s incredibly well put together, with each chapter narrated by various people who knew the couple, and the couple themselves. (Mercifully the child itself doesn’t have a chapter of her own, although apparently the author came to the idea by writing a short story from the child’s point of view. I assume she decided it was just too graphic to include.) As you read you start to piece together who they were and how something so horrific could have taken place. Definitely worth reading.

The Girl Before

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There is no denying this is a gripping read. I mean, when you have a quote from Lee Child on the front saying, “Dazzling – a pitch-perfect thriller”, you can be pretty sure it’s gonna be a page turner. And it is. But the comparisons on the back to Gone Girl and all the others like it, perhaps set this book up for a fall. I won’t deny that I loved most of it and devoured the 320 pages in less than 2 days.  There is no question that it’s a rip roaring read. But I kinda saw the ending coming. I think the genre demands a twist and in this case, there seemed to be only one way for it to go. So. On balance, great if you’re looking for a psychological thriller, but don’t expect too much if you’ve already read Gone Girl, Good as Gone, etc etc.

Oh, and what it’s about? It follows the story of two women who at different times have lived in the same insane property. No really, it’s insane. The architect who designed it has some kind of OCD and the house comes with a list of about 200 rules that must be followed, including no books or pictures. It’s freaky. And of course he’s really hot and they both end up in bed with him.  But the first girl, Emma, dies in mysterious circumstances in the house, leaving the second girl,  Jane, wondering if she could be in for trouble, too.

Her Fearful Symmetry

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This is a super weird and creepy book. It’s good, but you need to want something that will make you simultaneously scratch your head in wonder and your skin in discomfort! It’s about a pair of twins who inherit an apartment and then start doing some supernatural stuff, which ends with one of them becoming a ghost. Basically. There’s more to it than that, but this is the overarching plot (can you tell I read this one a few years ago?).  I definitely preferred Niffenger’s other book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, but this still held my attention and is worth picking up if you’re into the supernatural.